After an intensive survey, we’ve concluded that the best joke uttered about Alex Burrows’ alleged, but never proven, bite of Patrice Bergeron’s finger is this one, from the Orange County Register’s Mark Whicker:
“Burrows was not suspended because the league felt Bergeron could have easily found a player who had no teeth.”
A close second, but not qualifying for a cash reward, was this Twitter user known as (at)allansteele25:
“Burrows learned to bite in the ECHL. The per diem is real low there.”
The rest — a flood inspired by NHL senior vice president of hockey ops Mike Murphy’s ruling Thursday that the Vancouver Canucks winger would not be suspended for the Game 1 incident — followed as surely as night follows day.
Burrows lied in his teeth. Finger food. NHL supplemental discipline toothless. A lot of biting sarcasm.
In the end, the Canucks, up 1-0 in the series, evidently decided to zip their lips Thursday, having escaped the not very long arm of the law, and the Boston Bruins elected to take the high road.
Murphy, standing in for the sheriff who usually has the target painted on his forehead in these matters, Colin Campbell, released the following statement:
“After reviewing the incident, including speaking with the on-ice officials, I can find no conclusive evidence that Alex Burrows intentionally bit the finger of Patrice Bergeron.”
Not as much howling and laughter greeted the statement as you might think, considering the quality of video evidence that Bergeron’s gloved finger did, indeed, enter Burrows’ mouth and Burrows definitely appeared to bite down, though it could have just been an involuntary contraction, I suppose.
Canucks fourth-line centre Alex Bolduc said the whole thing was misunderstood by the English-language media.
“I was telling the guys in the room this morning: it’s how French guys say hi, you know? If you really respect a guy, you stick your finger in his mouth, and that’s how you show respect in Quebec,” he said, tongue-in-cheek, a concept evidently not well understood in Boston, judging by my email inbox.
At any rate, the NHL has a checkered history when it comes to biting in hockey, so there’s no point getting all wound up about this one, and the Bruins, for the most part, weren’t.
“The league has made a decision on it and we’re moving on” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “We’re not the type of team that whines and cries about those things.”
“You know what? I’m over it,” said Bergeron, Boston’s clever, complete, first-line centre. “I’m looking forward to the next game, and we’ve got to get back in the series. It’s the league’s decision, and it’s there, so I have nothing else to say about it.
“We’re looking for a win. He did it, but I’m over it.”
He only showed a little annoyance at a question asking him to go into detail of how the bite happened.
“I mean, we were both face-washing each other. I didn’t mean to put my finger in his mouth. Why would I do that?”
NHL archives aren’t exactly full of biting incidents, given the manliness of the sport, but the instances are all pretty much alike. Always in a scrum, usually while face-washing is going on.
The Bruins’ own injured forward Marc Savard was accused of biting Flyers’ Daniel Carcillo in a scrum during last year’s playoffs, under circumstances very much like Wednesday’s. Then, too, the NHL was unable to find conclusive video, though Carcillo (like Bergeron) claimed to have teeth marks on his hand.
Savard, who had a prior suspension while playing in Atlanta for biting the glove of Toronto’s Darcy Tucker in 2003, counterclaimed that Carcillo had stuck his hand in his mouth and tried to pull his teeth out.
“Yeah, that’s what I do when I get in a scrum,” Carcillo said. “I try to pull people’s teeth out. Whatever, man. He bit me. It’s pretty cowardly. Men don’t bite.”
Oh, but they do.
In the 1989 Stanley Cup final, Claude Lemieux bit Jim Peplinski on the finger, eliciting the famous quote: “I didn’t know they allowed cannibalism in the NHL.”
Former Ottawa Senator Jarkko Ruutu was suspended two games in 2009 for biting Buffalo enforcer Andrew Peters on the thumb.
Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell allegedly bit Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang in 2009, but again, video couldn’t produce the money shot, and escaped suspension.
“A lot of stuff happens on the bottom of the pile,” Hartnell said. “He had his hands in my face, doing the face wash, and we were rolling around. I can’t say what happened.”
See CANUCKS, page C2
After the incident Wednesday, Burrows said: “I’m not going to say too much about it.”
Nor did his coach Alain Vigneault, or any of the Canucks.
“Tell you the truth, I didn’t pay a lot of attention,” said Vigneault. “Nobody talked to me, from management or the league today, so I’ve been focused on getting ready to play Saturday.”
Vancouver GM Mike Gillis was equally circumspect, saying he and Burrows had a conversation with Murphy Thursday morning.
“It was very straightforward, and Mike was very clear, and I really don’t have a whole lot to say about it,” Gillis said. “In these kind of circumstances, it’s probably not fair to comment on them. The conversation we had with Mike is private, and I don’t think it’s our prerogative to discuss what was said.”
There was no formal hearing, meaning the league really didn’t see it as a big deal. Nor was it. It wasn’t like Mike Tyson biting a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear off, it wasn’t like Sevilla’s Jose Antonio Reyes being bitten in the genitals by a teammate while celebrating a goal in 2001.
It certainly wasn’t like Boston Celtics’ Danny Ainge having his finger bitten almost all the way through by Atlanta’s Tree Rollins in 1983, which the Boston Herald immortalized the next day with the headline: “Tree Bites Man.”
More like “Man Bites Bear.”
But the NHL couldn’t be sure. No film, no foul. If you don’t see him bit, you must acquit.
So the Canucks dodged one Thursday. But here’s guessing Boston has taken down the license plate number for future reference, like when the series moves to Beantown and the Garden denizens make their voices heard.
For Alex Burrows, trouble’s bruin.